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Miranshah, Pakistan (AFP) Oct 10, 2012
A US drone strike targeting a militant compound killed five insurgents in a restive Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border on Wednesday, security officials said.
The attack was the first since a massive anti-drone rally last weekend near the lawless region known as a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, they said.
"Several US drones flew into the area before dawn and fired four missiles on a compound, killing five militants," a security official told AFP after the strike in Hurmuz area, east of Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan tribal region.
Another security official in the northwestern city of Peshawar confirmed the attack and casualties.
The identities of those killed in the strike was not immediately clear.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network in North Waziristan, blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan, is one of the thorniest issues between Islamabad and Washington.
The attacks by unmanned US aircraft remain contentious -- they are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, which says they violate its sovereignty and fan anti-US sentiment, but American officials are said to believe they are too important to give up.
Imran Khan, Pakistan's cricket hero turned politician, led thousands of supporters on a long drive from the capital Islamabad to the edge of the nearby tribal district of South Waziristan in a two-day protest against US drone strikes.
The rally was the first from a mainstream politician to the tribal belt described by US officials as one of the most dangerous place on Earth.
Khan defied official warnings and led emotional supporters and dozens of Western peace activists to Tank, the last town before the semi-autonomous area.
The march passed through Tank but turned back before reaching the border with South Waziristan.
Khan insisted the march -- a motorcade that included several thousand vehicles -- was a success.
"We have given our message -- it has gone across the world," he told supporters.
"We have succeeded in raising this issue. We came here to raise this issue, we came here to take a stand against drones."
"We had already made our point to the international media. Globally our message was conveyed, so we should not go ahead and put lives at risk."
Islamist militants have killed thousands of people in Pakistan since 2007, and US officials say the drone strikes are a key weapon in the war on terror.
But peace campaigners condemn them as a breach of international law. Pakistanis call them a violation of sovereignty that breeds extremism, and politicians including Khan say the government is complicit in killing its own people.
Casualty figures are difficult to obtain, but a report commissioned by legal lobby group Reprieve estimated last month that 474 to 881 civilians were among 2,562 to 3,325 people killed by drones in Pakistan between June 2004 and September 2012.
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